The Weaponization of Food
by Emily Shih
David Fincher's 2014 psychological thriller "Gone Girl" is a masterful exploration of a toxic marriage, manipulation, and deception. Among its many elements that contribute to its unsettling atmosphere, food plays a significant role in both revealing and concealing the true nature of the characters.
One of the most striking uses of food in the film is as a tool of control and manipulation. Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), the film's enigmatic and complex antagonist, employs food to assert dominance over her husband, Nick (Ben Affleck). Early in the film, she prepares a lavish breakfast, complete with heart-shaped pancakes, as part of her elaborate anniversary treasure hunt. This serves as a façade, a well-orchestrated performance of the perfect wife, obscuring her sinister intentions.
As the plot unfolds, Amy's manipulation continues as she stages her own disappearance. She meticulously plans her route, leaving behind traces of food items to create a narrative that paints Nick as a neglectful husband. This is a twisted use of food as a weapon, turning the act of eating and preparing meals into a form of emotional warfare.
The film also portrays food as a symbol of societal expectations and image management. Nick and Amy's image as a perfect, happy couple is carefully constructed, and they go to great lengths to maintain it. This is exemplified in the scene where Nick visits Amy in the hospital and they share Chinese takeout. The outward appearance of normalcy contrasts sharply with their underlying turmoil, illustrating the façade that food can create in relationships. Furthermore, the film presents food as a means of maintaining appearances for the public. At a press conference, Nick takes a bite of a sandwich on camera to prove his innocence. The act of eating in front of the media is a performance, a way of conforming to societal norms and demonstrating his composure.
In "Gone Girl," food serves as a multifaceted symbol of control, deception, and the maintenance of societal image. It's used to mask the characters' true intentions and emotions while revealing the intricate dynamics of their marriage. David Fincher's deft use of food as a narrative device underscores the film's exploration of the masks we wear in our relationships and the power of appearances in our image-conscious society. Food becomes a powerful, though often overlooked, element that adds depth and complexity to the story, making it an essential component of the film's narrative tapestry.
Gone Girl. David Fincher. 20th Century Fox, 2014.